Preview: Flames vs. Devils
DEVILS (23-16-2) at FLAMES (19-19-5)
TV: MSG PLUS 2, SNET-W (HD)
Last 10: New Jersey 6-3-1; Calgary 5-4-1
Season Series: This is the only meeting of the 2011-12 season between the Devils and Flames. New Jersey earned a 2-1 shootout win on home ice in the most recent matchup on Nov. 24, 2010. Ilya Kovalchuk scored the only goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker while Johan Hedberg finished with 25 saves.
Big Story: Year in and year out, whether the Flames are struggling or a playoff-caliber team, one of the constants in Calgary has been captain Jarome Iginla. In the team's most recent game, Saturday against Minnesota, the 34-year-old right wing scored the 500th goal of his illustrious career, all with the same franchise. Iginla is hardly slowing down, as his 16 goals put him on pace to record his 11th consecutive season of 30 or more.
Devils: What a difference a year makes -- Saturday's 3-1 win in Pittsburgh allowed New Jersey to reach the halfway point with 48 points, an improvement of 26 over 2010-11, when even a terrific second-half run couldn't make up enough ground to keep the Devils' streak of postseason appearances alive. This season they sit right in the middle of the Eastern Conference pack and will look to build upon an effort that saw Kovalchuk tie for the team lead with his 15th goal, while Adam Henrique scored shorthanded and Dainius Zubrus connected on a power play.
"Our special teams were good, our goaltender was great," coach Peter DeBoer said, referring to Martin Brodeur, who made a season-high 41 saves against the Penguins.
Flames: Iginla's goal was historic and it also turned out to be the game-winner in Calgary's 3-1 win, but the night was also a memorable one for Lance Bouma. The Flames and Wild were scoreless beginning the third period when Bouma beat Niklas Backstrom for the first goal of his NHL career, starting a rally in which Iginla and Curtis Glencross followed with scores that built a comfortable lead for Miikka Kiprusoff. Overall, it was a nice bounce-back effort after a 9-0 loss to Boston two days earlier.
"It was pretty exciting. As soon as I saw it go in, I was pretty happy and relieved that it went in because I had a few games last year where I could have scored but didn't," Bouma said. "To get my first goal when Iggy gets his 500th is pretty cool."
Who's Hot: Kovalchuk has 3 goals in the Devils' last two games. Henrique has consecutive games with a goal and an assist. Zach Parise has 1 goal and 4 assists during a three-game points streak. … Iginla has 9 goals and 12 assists over the last 19 games for the Flames and hasn't gone consecutive games without a point during that stretch. Glencross has 8 goals in his last 11 games.
Injury Report: New Jersey forward Travis Zajac made the trip despite missing the last three games with soreness in his left Achilles. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov has missed four in a row with a lower-body injury, but is eligible to be activated from injured reserve. … Calgary forward Brendan Morrison missed Saturday's game with an upper-body injury, further depleting a lineup already without backup goalie Henrik Karlsson (sprained MCL), defensemen Brett Carson (back), Mark Giordano (leg), Derek Smith (ankle) and Scott Hannan (upper body) and forwards David Moss (ankle), Matt Stajan (ankle) and Alex Tanguay (upper body). In addition, forward Rene Bourque is currently serving a five-game suspension.
Stat Pack: The Devils lead the NHL in both shorthanded goals allowed (12) and scored (9), while Parise and Henrique are tied for second in the League with 3 shorthanded goals, one behind Cal Clutterbuck of the Wild. … Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is set to play in his 550th consecutive game.
Puck Drop: The Calgary Herald noted the remarkable consistency Iginla has displayed in his goal scoring over the years: he's split his 500 goals evenly before the 2004-05 work stoppage and after, while scoring 253 at home and 247 on the road.
"A couple of us guys were talking about it earlier and it's almost like scoring a goal every second game," Morrison told the newspaper. "I know he's played over 1,000 games but it's pretty close to that clip. It's a remarkable number, an amazing feat."